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Congratulations to Brigadier General John Fletcher, Head Chaplain in Canada's Military
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 09/16/13
Last updated on: 09/16/13
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General Fletcher.

Congratulations to Brigadier General John Fletcher, who has recently been appointed Chaplain General to the Canadian Forces. An Anglican priest and a 33-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Fletcher is apparently Canada's first openly gay Chaplain General.

As Kamila Hinkson reports in the Toronto Star, Fletcher will be overseeing the religious needs of Canada's troops, shoring up what the Defense Department calls its chaplaincy's "inclusive, welcoming culture."

Fletcher will head a chaplain corps that includes 335 spiritual leaders in both the Forces and the reserves, representing various branches of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. The role of the Chaplaincy is to support and care for all Canadian Armed Forces personnel and their families, "wherever they live and serve, empowering them spiritually and morally to meet the demands of military service."

Fletcher came out to military colleagues not long after a landmark court decision struck down a ban on homosexuals in the Canadian military in 1992.

In an interview, Fletcher acknowledged that some may find it odd, or even scandalous, that he is a career military man, a priest, and a homosexual. "I equally understand that some people will be excited and encouraged by the openness of my own church, to allow me to exercise this ministry and certainly encouraged that I'm free to work within a Canadian military that simply doesn't discriminate on (the basis of) these things," he said.

Although Fletcher seems to be the first openly gay Chaplain General, that designation may not be accurate. Captain Matt Zalot, chief of military personnel public affairs, said that the Canadian Armed Forces "does not keep track of or inquire about the sexual orientation of our members, so I really couldn't say if Padre Fletcher is the highest-ranking, openly-gay CAF member, Chaplain General or otherwise."

Hinkson reports that "As a child growing up in St. Stephen, N.B., [Fletcher] aspired to become a minister. In high school, cognizant of the 'uncool' factor of his chosen profession and bolstered by a love of math and science, he decided to become a pilot instead."

Enticed by the promise of subsidized education and job training, he enrolled at the Royal Military College right out of high school. However, midway through his course of study, his first love beckoned, and he switched his focus from piloting planes to composing sermons.

Fletcher, who has been with his partner Nelson Usher for 16 years, said that the acceptance he has received within both his church and the Canadian military is "just another example of that same sort of trend that we as Canadians should celebrate and embrace." He added that we should "continue to look at the barriers that might be elsewhere that are keeping people from pursuing vocations they are qualified, or feeling called to go and do."

In an interview with Laura Stone of Global News, Fletcher said that "The Canadian military is Canada's military, and we want to be reflective of the nation and the people that we serve."

He also observed, "There's so much energy that becomes wasted in life when we're not able to live who we authentically are." He added, "I'm just so grateful that we live in [a] place, and that I work in a military and in a church, where those issues don't need to preoccupy the energy."

The video below reports on the appointment of Fletcher.

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